The ousted player says he had a 'tough' time at Ponderosa after being voted out.
Bruce Perreault never really got a chance to play Survivor the first time around. The real estate agent suffered a head injury just minutes into Survivor 44 and was medically evacuated on day 1 of the game. But Bruce got the rare do-over opportunity when host and showrunner Jeff Probst invited him back to play on the very next season, Survivor 45.
This time, Bruce made it all the way to day 19, and solidified himself as the biggest physical threat in the game — winning back-to-back challenges. But in other ways, it was a rough go for Bruce. His tribemates often chafed under what they felt was Bruce’s bossy behavior, with one contestant, Katurah Topps, expressing her frustration early and often. Even the player Bruce called his number one ally in the game — Kellie Nalbandian — chafed living with him and was desperate to vote him out.
While Bruce was protected by his challenge wins and hidden immunity idol, his time finally came to an end this week when he lost an immunity contest to Austin Li Coon and was then persuaded by Emily Flippen to not play his idol under the ruse that the vote was actually going on Julie Alley.
How close was Bruce to playing that idol and saving himself? What did he make of all the negative comments from other players about his attitude out on the island? And did he ever ask his daughter if he needed to change the way he talks to people? We sat down with Uncle Bruce the morning after his televised ouster and got some answers.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Okay, how close were you to playing your immunity idol at Tribal Council?
BRUCE PERREAULT: I was very close to playing it. And Drew's comments were the ones that made me want to play it the most. But when you're around a bunch of sophisticated people and they can kind of look you in the eye and not tell you the truth, you feel this sense of warmth. And I guess it was ice cold and they were good at it.
This Belo tribe, it seemed like everyone was turning on everyone at some point after the merge as Reba just kind of sat back and ate their popcorn. So what happened?
Yeah, we're the Belo hot mess tribe, which is perfectly fine. Listen, if you're going to be known for something, be known for that. But I think that our conversations about eliminating people took place way too early. I think it happened right after we won the first immunity challenge, we went back to the beach and there were conversations about who was going to get voted off, and I think personally, it didn't need to happen that early, but it did start happening. So no gelling in my eyes really took place. But in listening and watching everything back, there were a couple of little alliances that took place, but there were too many small alliances opposed to just one really good solid one.
Why bring Katurah of all people in on your plan to lie about giving your idol to Kellie?
In my estimation with the conversations that had happened prior too with Katurah, I felt as if we were kind of getting our footing and establishing something that could have very well worked out. When I had a conversation with Jake and I was using my fingers, I was doing the math and I wasn't doing it to Jake in a way like he wouldn't be able to understand it. I was figuring it out myself.
So talking to Katurah, I really thought that she would've went with the plan, and I did something that I haven't done until that point in time — which was actually look and see myself with other people going to the final four. I never looked further than the day that I was in, and that was the time that I did it and that was my downfall.
What was it like watching the show play back on TV and seeing how Katurah really felt about you, which was, let’s just say, not great.
The first two weeks or so, I was like, “Oh, yep, I annoyed Katurah.” And then all of a sudden, it was week three, week four, week five, and I'm just like…. I'm not even mad at her at this point in time. I'm just mad at the scenario. I'm mad at the situation, and it's like: Man, I want my game to be represented in a different way and I want Katurah’s game to be represented in a different way. For us to be able to sit there and be tied together: Katurah hates Bruce. Bruce has no idea. Bruce is a dumbass that then gets voted out. That's not the arc that I saw it going, because I feel that both of us contributed a lot more to the game, But you're at the mercy of the edit and I guess things happen for a reason. She got me. [Laughs]
What about when you had to sit there and watch Kellie — who you thought was your number 1 — talk about what a drag you were on her game and how annoyed she was and how much she wanted you out? You caught wind of that after she was voted out, and then you watch it play back on TV. I imagine that was difficult.
Yeah, that was very difficult. It was very difficult because I've had multiple conversations with Kellie outside of the game, and I love who she is, and she loves and respects who I am as a person outside of the game. I'm not everybody's cup of tea. I understand that I'm a ’70s baby. It is what it is. But to see it play back on television — I'm not the kind of person that likes to have anybody upset with him. And for me to see that and think that I was potentially the thought process of someone's game being dragged down, that kind of hurts. But it's something that you kind of brush your shoulders a little bit and you move on and go from there. But Kellie and I are awesome right now. We're great. It was gameplay and that's how I look at it.
Did you have a chance to talk to Kellie about that at Ponderosa after you were clued in to how he felt and what she was saying?
Ponderosa was tough. Because Kellie was just voted off a couple of days before me, and so was Kaleb, and so was Kendra, and everybody's emotions are very high. And especially with Kellie, she felt some kind of way, and I remember saying something to her and being like, “I'm sorry that this happened the way that it happened.” And she was very, very receptive to it. But that's really all that you can do at this point in time is just kind of talk about the elephant in the room and move on.
But as far as for the Ponderosa experience overall for myself, it wasn't what I thought it was going to be because at that point in time it was led on to me that no one was willing to work with me. So now taking a look at the show last night and the [clapping and celebrating] that Bruce is gone, it's like it's two sides of the coin. You feel good that people looked at you as much as a threat to want to vote you out and they're happy that you're gone. But then it's also like, "Okay, so what part of that is ‘We just want Bruce the hell out of here,’ as opposed to it being gameplay?" So you f think about those things and that carried into Ponderosa as well with the conversations that were had after the game.
You had a very introspective moment after she left and talked about how you were going to ask your daughter if that’s how you talked to her. So did you have that conversation with your family, and if so, how did that go?
The conversation was not had, but what was had was when I came home, it was a different level of conversation, meaning that I actively made sure that I was listening more than I wanted to talk. I say it all the time: two ears, one mouth, which one wins? The two ears. And I actively kind of put that into play as much as I could.
You can't change a tiger’s stripes, it just kind of is what it is. But you can adjust as necessary. And I think that I did do that because my daughter and I have never been closer. She's away at college right now and she calls me every single day. She called me last night, she was crying that I was not on any longer. That's just kind of a little bit of a testament to the relationship that she and I have.
So as much as in that moment I was like, “Yes, I got to go back and I got to talk to my daughter and I got to have this conversation with her,” I knew that all that I really needed to do was kind of check myself and not bring that up, because I know my daughter's going to ask me a ton of questions in regards to why I'm asking all this. [Instead, I just needed to] change myself in the way that I look at how I conversate with my daughter, with my wife, and with friends in general. It was funny to come back and see my friends, and the amount of active listening that I was doing with my daughter, with my friends, and everybody else around me was kind of eye-opening. People should do it more often.
Let’s get to the good stuff: You won two immunities back-to-back. Was that the height of your Survivor experience over two seasons?
Yeah, that was truly an incredible feeling. I got so many amazing messages of inspiration from people saying, “Bruce, you kicked ass.” The highs that came with that were absolutely amazing. And it just put more into that bucket of stuff that I wanted to get from Survivor from watching the show from so early and seeing that, “Hell, I can definitely can do that.” Should I ever play again, I'll still be able to bring the same tenacity to the challenges. The only thing I'd have to do is just kind of change the way that I speak or how demanding I am of people. But yeah, this has been a great check mark off of the bucket list of Survivor.
We talked before the game started and you said you were going to try and be crazy uncle Bruce, and we definitely saw that anytime you stepped on a boat. But tell me about trying to tone down some of the leadership stuff, which at least from the edit seemed like you just couldn't help yourself.
I'm going to blow up the editing up real quick. There were a lot of times that we sat there, and even on day one there were questions that were being asked of me. Those are questions. I'm answering questions. But when you got a pair of scissors and you can cut stuff….
I'm a dad, I understand it. I got the dad edit. As much as I tried to be crazy Uncle Bruce — which I did as much as humanly possible, even when I was starving — I just wanted to have a good time. The edit did chop it up and show that I was like “Do this, pull this here, take that down.” When I talked to Kaleb that day, I remember very vividly saying, “Yo, we need more firewood. We can talk about it or be about it.” Everyone wanted to sit and talk about it. And that was probably the biggest snap that I had by way of dad coming out because I really wanted to ensure we had fire for the evening. So that was that.
What’s something that happened out there that you wish we had a chance to see?
What I wish would've made it was at least the ability for Katurah and I to have a good conversation. We talked about things, her edit showed what it showed, and I've actually had conversations with Katurah since, and she and I are working to an awesome place, but I just I wish that they would've showed a little bit more of us conversating in camp. And it wasn't always knives out for Bruce from Katurah. There was more to it than that.
And just the relationship in general with myself and the tribe, like at the immunity challenges and the way that we worked together. When we sat there and were like, “Okay, what are we going to do?” They turned and looked at me because know I'm a coach, they know that's what I've done. So I put great input on that, just like everybody else. So I wish they would've showed that as well. So those two things, just the way that we worked together, we didn't lose challenges. And when we came in second when it was the three tribes, we were damn close to getting first because we worked pretty well together.
You had such a rough go the first time because you played for only five minutes and you had to live with that sense of “What if?” But at the same time, everyone loved you and was throwing you flowers because of “poor Bruce.” Now you get a more typical Survivor experience, but you see that a typical Survivor experience can be a mixed one. So how are you now mentally after this one compared to the first one?
I like to keep them both in two separate brackets. There's an ego that comes along with it, and everybody has one. It was great to have the ego of everybody loves me, and it was great to have the ego of everybody hates me. I enjoy being hated on. I really do. Because what that does, it gives a little bit of fuel towards something, whether it be to wake up in the morning, whether it be to put a little extra effort towards a workout, whatever have you. I appreciate that.
And when I was fighting at any moment in time for the immunities that I won — even when I was going up against Austin, he was the reason why I was fighting so hard. It wasn't anybody else. I wanted to go fight against him. I was 46-years-old at the time, he's in his twenties, he's bigger than I am, stronger than I am physically. But mentally, I felt that I had a little bit more. Only reason I lost was because of those pinkies. My pinkies fell asleep and I just couldn't feel a thing. So that's why I fell off.
What I took away from it all is that for season 1, I got all the well wishes, because people were concerned in regards to my health as a human being. Now they're looking at a character, and there's something about this character that they saw in television that they did not appreciate, they did not understand. So you get some hate from that. But I'm telling you, again, the majority of the people that I spoke to and the majority of the things that I read are just all positive and they're like, “Go get 'em!” So I had some fun with it.
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